Thank A Dairy Farmer!

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Jun 4, 2008 No Comments ›› admin

June 4, 2008

“Dairy farming is a tough job. People would be surprised if they knew the hard work that goes into making their food.” The farm woman wiped her hands and finished up her work. “People look at the price they are paying the grocery store,” she continued. “And they think that money all goes to the farmer. But our prices are going up too.”

Farm prices are a bright spot in today’s economy. Cheese prices have been on the rise and that has driven high milk prices. Soybean prices have doubled and corn is at a ten year high.  Commodity prices are high but so are inputs – those ingredients necessary for the production of farm products.

The price of fertilizer is at record levels, in some cases nearly triple what it was a year ago. Protein concentrate, hay, soybean meal and feed grains are up an average of 27% over last year according to the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS). Fuel costs are $1.40 more a gallon. Overall, NASS reports that costs are up 17% over last year.

These numbers translate into difficult decisions for farmers. Some farmers practice no-till to cut down the number of passes they make over their fields; some farmers cut back on protein for their cattle or fertilizer for their fields. All hope the good weather and the prices hold.

Agriculture’s contribution to Wisconsin’s economy is over $50 billion and accounts for nearly half a million jobs in our state of five million people. The largest share of the state’s agriculture economy is related to dairy – $20.6 billion. Almost 5% of Wisconsin’s workforce works on the farm or in dairy processing. The jobs affected by the dairy industry stretch far beyond the farm.  From the veterinarian, the milk truck driver, the cheese plant worker, the food processors and the implement dealer – the fellow who keeps everything running – our dairy industry is the life blood of many small towns. 

Wisconsin’s surging agriculture economy can help our entire state buffer a down turn in other sectors of the economy.

We, in agriculture, have witnessed record milk per cow production, record cheese production and record exports. Wisconsin leads the nation in high-end specialty cheese and produces more varieties of cheese than any other state or nation.  We also lead the nation in the production of organic dairy and livestock.

Our agriculture economy is growing, due in part to investments made by farmers, cheese processors and the State. Wisconsin’s 14,000 dairy farms invested $1 billion to modernize farms in the past 5 years and report plans to invest another $1 billion in the coming 5 years. Dairy processors opened 23 new plants and expanded 45 more since 2004, including the reopening of the Foremost Waumandee plant in Buffalo County.

Even as input costs remain high, both farmers and cheese makers are challenged. And long term problems remain.

Almost 20% of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers have no health insurance; another 25% have at least one family member without insurance; and most have no preventive care. Farming is one of the riskiest occupations. The job is very physical; one is at the mercy of markets and the weather and the average age of our farmers is getting older not younger.

June is dairy month and a time to celebrate. Next time you savor creamy ice cream, milk or cheese, remember to take a moment and thank a farmer. And while you are at it, remember the milk truck driver, the milk tester, the implement dealer, the veterinarian, the cheese maker and all those who help Wisconsin keep her title as America’s Dairyland.

Have ideas on how to thank our dairy farmers? Call me at 877-763-6636. Send an email to or a letter to State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7882.

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